Banana Layer Cake is baked in a 9x13 pan and then sliced down the middle and frosted. The result is an unfussy dessert with two layers of cake, a filling of cream cheese frosting, and chocolate frosting around the outside. Worthy of a celebration but just as great any old weeknight.
Earlier this year, this Lemon Cake caught my eye in Food and Wine. The cake looked delicious, but the recipe completely buried the lead. What is special about this cake is the shortcut it uses to make an even two-layer cake that’s just right for smaller celebrations (or early 2021 when most celebrations are small). The technique is so simple and so smart.
Bake a cake in a 9x13 pan, let it cool, and then slice it in half to create two layers. Rather than fussing with two cake pans and worrying about the layers being even, a 9x13 pan is all you need.
This cake is a true cross between banana bread and vanilla cake. It’s not as dense as a loaf of banana bread, but stays just as moist and tender as most banana bread does. And if you don’t want to mess with the two layers, just serve it as a sheet cake with chocolate frosting. See below for all the details!
Tips for Making a Layer Cake
- Bake the cake ahead - Be sure to bake the cake ahead of time so that it is completely cool before frosting. This banana cake will stay moist for up to 24 hours, so bake it up to a day ahead and refrigerate until ready to frost.
- Even up the layers - Many cakes have slightly rounded tops after baking. Once cooled, use a serrated knife to slice off just the top of the cake to create a flat surface so they easily stack.
- Cool before frosting - Even if you bake the cake the same day you want to serve it, be sure it is very cool before frosting. The frosting will melt if spread out on a warm cake. You can speed the cooling process by refrigerating the cake.
- Use frosting immediately - While frosting can technically be made ahead, it is the lightest and fluffiest right after mixing. It’s best to make your frosting and then use it right away. (After being frosted, the cake can be left at cool room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerated for up to a day.)
Single Layer Banana Cake
Want to skip the layers and serve this as a single layer 9x13 banana cake? No problem. You can frost it with chocolate frosting (the amount in the recipe below should be about right) or cream cheese frosting (double the amount in the recipe below).
How Ripe Should Bananas Be for Baking?
When ripe bananas are speckled with brown spots, they are ready for baking. Very ripe bananas that are brown all over will lend more sweetness and moisture to the bread and will make a cake that is more dense and soft.
My favorite tip for baking with bananas is to mash a bunch of bananas all at once and freeze them in jars. I even pre-measure the mashed banana so that it is ready to be used in my favorite banana recipes (all listed below).
Ways to Use Mashed Banana
- Chocolate-Dipped Banana Bread Truffles
- Weeknight Banana Bread
- Banana Bread Bundt Cake with Chocolate
- Banana Bread Crumb Cake
- Whole Wheat Banana Bread
- Banana Bread Bars with Brown Butter Cinnamon Icing
- Banana Bread Cupcakes
Banana Layer Cake
- Stand or Handheld Mixer
- Mixing Bowls
- 9 x 13 Baking Dish
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour (375g)
- 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ¾ cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature (1 ½ sticks; 12 Tbsp; 170g)
- 1 ½ cups White Sugar (300g)
- 3 Eggs, whisked
- 2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 ½ cups Lowfat Buttermilk
- 1 ½ cups Mashed Bananas (3-4 medium bananas)
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature (2 sticks; 16 Tbsp; 226g)
- ½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 tablespoon Honey
- 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 ½ cups Powdered Sugar
- 2-4 tablespoon Milk
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature (¼ stick; 28g)
- 2 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature (be sure to use block cream cheese, not the kind that comes in a tub) (56g)
- 1 tablespoon Milk, any type, more as needed
- ½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 cups Powdered Sugar (250g)
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan.
- Make cake: In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat together the butter (for the cake) and white sugar until very light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until evenly combined.
- Alternate adding the half the dry ingredients and half the buttermilk, mixing after each addition, until everything is evenly combined. Add mashed bananas and mix on low just until even. (Do not over mix.)
- Spread cake batter out in prepared baking pan.
- Bake until cake is set in the middle, 55 to 65 minutes. (If using a metal pan, it should finish on the lower end of the range; if using a glass or ceramic pan, it will need closer to the higher end.)
- Make cream cheese frosting: Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or handheld mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on high until smooth and even, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoon milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar and mix on low to combine everything. Switch to high and beat until very smooth, 2 minutes more. If the frosting is too thick to spread, add additional milk a little at a time. Transfer to a bowl.
- Make chocolate frosting: Wipe out the bowl used to make the cream cheese frosting. Combine butter, cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla. Beat on high until very smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoon milk. Continue mixing until evenly combined. Continue beating, adding extra milk as needed, until the frosting is a smooth, thick but spreadable consistency.
- Wait until cake is completely cool to slice it in half across the shortest side, dividing it into two even pieces. (Do not frost the cake if it is warm or the frosting will melt.)
- If the top of the cake is rounded, use a serrated knife to even it out.
- Place one of the cake squares on a serving platter or cake stand. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting on top.
- Place the second square of cake on top of the cream cheese frosting. Frost the entire outside of the cake with an even layer of chocolate frosting. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
- Slice and serve!
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